by Lauren Orsini,
How would you rate episode 25 of
Kuroko's Basketball (TV 3) ?
For those of us who have been watching Kuroko's Basketball since the beginning, it's hard to believe that the show is finally over after three years. Seriously, with such an open-ended conclusion, it's hard to believe it really did finish. Though the manga is over and there's no content left for the anime to explore, episode 75, “Many Times Over” was hardly a culmination for the story, coming off more like the typical denouement that follows every win or loss in the show.
Earlier, I predicted that the show would attempt to squeeze every possible minute out of the fourth and final quarter, and this episode devotes over 10 minutes to its final 30 seconds. The visuals echo the pacing, slowing down to still shots that stay on the screen for so long that I kept worrying I had accidentally pressed “pause” or was having connectivity issues. Since the show took a break last week, I'm interpreting these still shots as intentional, not anything caused by a rush job. To give credit where it's due, Kuroko's Basketball has often maintained consistent quality. Still, while watching Hyuga's three-pointer sit tantalizingly on the rim of the basketball net, all I could think was, “This isn't how physics work.” This is a show that removes the ordinary components of basketball and replaces them with magic, but this is honestly the first episode that had me wondering if there's a limit to that.
Thankfully, everything comes down to one last standoff between Kuroko and Akashi. By this point, it's clear that Seirin will win, and this shift in the balance of power is shown through Kuroko and Akashi's swapped roles. Here's Kuroko on offense, all composure—and Akashi on defense, furious and totally tilted off balance. However, it's not a repeat of Kuroko's Phantom Shot buzzer-beater in the Kaijo game, and for that I am grateful. It's almost a surprise, with Kagami making a last minute dunk out of nowhere. It's a return to Kuroko's role as an assist. He's not too flashy anymore, which ties up the potential loose end: “Will Kuroko still be able to be the Shadow after the Rakuzan game?” As the ball slams into the basket, cue more of this episode's characteristic still shots as we take a moment to view each individual player's reaction.
For the rest of the episode, it's all smiles. Akashi is anything but a sore loser, thanking Kuroko and promising to play him again. Kiyoshi's going to finally get his knee fixed. The episode devotes its entire second half to seeing how each of the Generation of Miracles' teams are holding up. Still, I feel like Kuroko's Basketball could pick right back up at season four. It's all in the dialogue; every character is constantly saying something like “it isn't over yet.” Akashi hopes to play against Kuroko “many times over.” Though seniors at other schools are applying to colleges now, they're still around. Daily basketball practice continues. Even at Seirin, nobody is taking a break. They're simply gearing up for the next challenge, the next tournament, the next rivalry.
“This isn't the end of everything. It's more like it's just begun,” Kuroko says. Only we, the viewers, won't be able to see it continue. Perhaps my harsh critique of this conclusion is borne out of that frustration. The anime can attempt to freeze time with still shots in the last 30 seconds of the fourth quarter of the final game. It can highlight characters joyfully discussing their bright futures. But the show has ended anyway. Perhaps a less teasing conclusion would have made this reality a little easier to bear.
Kuroko's Basketball is currently streaming on Daisuki.
Lauren writes about anime and journalism at Otaku Journalist.
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